22 May 2018 0 Comments Posted By : Nicholas Keung

Toronto may need emergency centres to house refugees, says Mayor Tory

With only 20 rooms vacant, Toronto is within seven days of evoking an emergency plan to house the growing number of refugees settling in the city after crossing the U.S.-Canada border, Mayor John Tory says.

“We could not, cannot and should not be doing this alone. If these daily arrivals continue, as we expect them to, to some degree or another, we will be in a position within the next seven days, where we will need to open an emergency reception centre,” Tory told a news conference Friday.

As of Thursday, there were 2,683 refugee claimants in the Toronto shelter system, accounting for 41 per cent of the shelter population. At the current rate of arrivals, the city expects refugees will make up 54 per cent of the spaces by November.

“We are seeing on average 10 new refugee claimants added to our shelter system each and every day. Already, we have added 1,080 motel beds to our refugee program within the shelter system,” Tory said.

“We have an overall responsibility to shelter people who are in need of shelter, but we’re trying to get help from other governments to establish a separate way of dealing with refugees” and avoid the capacity issues of the shelter system.

As of late April, 7,612 asylum seekers have crossed into Canada between official ports of entry this year — up from 2,749 by this time in 2017.

The wave of refugees via U.S. land crossings started in late 2016 with the election victory by President Donald Trump, who threatened the removal of undocumented migrants. A bilateral pact restricts refugees to filing asylum claims in the country of their arrival, but it does not apply to those who cross at unguarded border entry points, which has led to the irregular border-crossings.

Tory said an emergency plan is in place but he would not review which neighbourhoods or city facilities would be opened to house the new arrivals.

Although the city has successfully found permanent housing for 1,720 refugees, staff project a $20-million budget shortfall. Temporary motel housing for the refugees is expected to cost $64 million this year — if the refugee occupancy levels remain at 40 per cent of the shelter system.

“I am reiterating today my urgent request to the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to relieve the City of Toronto of this pressure … and takeleadership to co-ordinate and facilitate placement of new arrivals to regional locations outside of the city,” said Tory, urging Ottawa and Queen’s Park to reimburse Toronto.

We need places to make sure we can provide this temp housing. We need staff and resources to help us care for these families.”

Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the government has worked closely with provinces and municipalities “affected by the influx of irregular migrants.”

“We are currently working with the Government of Ontario to establish a triage system, which will ensure that we are using resources efficiently,” he said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and engage with the Province of Ontario.”

Matt Gloyd, a spokesperson for the Ontario immigration department, said the province has been working hard to find possible sites to accommodate asylum seekers arriving in Toronto.

“Officials have identified several hundred spaces in college and university residences that the city could utilize for shelter space. These sites were shared with muncipal officials, and government officials will continue working closely with them to expedite this process,” Gloyd said.

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